Comic book heroes, combined with technological advancements in cinematography, have brought our favorite characters to life on the big screen in ways we never dreamed possible. There’s certainly no comparison between the quality of today vs. yesterdays cinematic possibilities. That’s a fact regardless of what genre a film resides. Perhaps that point is even truer when discussing our most admired superheroes, or villains, and the movies they adorn.
As far as motion pictures are concerned, it took until 1978 for a comic book hero to be featured in a big-budget film. That year Superman was released and fans welcomed it warmly into theaters all over the globe. The original Superman film earned the DCEU franchise nearly $135,000,000 at the box office domestically. That’s a grip of cash even by today’s standards! For comparison sake, Paramount Pictures Grease was the highest-grossing movie in ’78 edging out the DC comic book hero turned Warner Bros movie star by $20,000,000.
Marvel and DCEU movies duke it out in theaters every year. Their films have shown fans, and critics alike, that they’re capable of flopping as often as they turn a big profit. Undeniably, casting the right actors is huge in superhero movies. Selecting the best actors for critical roles is essential to the success of any film. That got us thinking around here, which franchise has done better, or worse, at casting their movies over the years? This article is the first of two recalling such decisions. Let’s begin on a positive note and start with “Who Did It Better? Top 20 Marvel/DC Casting Calls.” Let the games begin!
20. DC – Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn)
It’s beginning to seem like any movie Margot Robbie is cast, she shines. It’s hard to forget her role with Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, no doubt. Her role as Harley Quinn, though, in Suicide Squad is arguably one of the few bright spots in the often criticized movie that was released in Aug 2016. Despite grumblings from fans and critics alike, Suicide Squad‘s average reviews didn’t seem to drag down Margot’s performance. Not in the least. In fact, the future showed us that her character Harley Quinn would be nominated for over 4 awards for her role in the movie. That makes this Hollywood go to gal a pretty a solid casting choice for DC and Warner Bros.
19. Marvel – Tom Holland (Spider-Man)
Tom Holland being cast as Peter Parker in the MCU’s latest Spider-Man depiction came with its share of whispers from loyal fans. Could making Spider-Man younger be more appealing to movie goers? Only time will tell us if Tom makes a better Peter Parker than Tobey McGuire, but he’s definitely off to a good start. His new spider suit, courtesy of none other than Tony Stark doesn’t hurt his chances. Sandy Schaefer of ScreenRant sums up Holland’s new role best saying,
“The combination of Holland’s charismatic performance and young age further makes his version of Peter Parker more convincing as a good-natured kid who’s in way over his head, compared to the previous onscreen versions of Spider-Man.”
18. DC – Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman)
Landing her role as Wonder Woman in DC’s extended universe is certainly Gal Gadot‘s crowning achievement thus far in her career. The Israeli born and former 2004 Miss Israel has made a huge impact with fans who love her cast as the baddest female in any universe. Princess’ warrior of the Amazons, Diana is informed by an American pilot who tells her of the impending conflicts that loom in the world outside of her home. Deciding she needs to join in the battle is where Wonder Woman is born on the big screen. The film was released to a clamoring public and would go on to earn over $810 million dollars at the box office. Not too shabby!
17. Marvel – Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique)
Rebecca Romijn or Jennifer Lawrence; who played the better Mystique? You could argue that both were casting calls, though, both actresses portray the role a bit different on film. When talking about the future of the character, Jennifer Lawrence is quoted as saying,
“Fassbender and McAvoy and I (Lawrence) were all talking. Like, ‘Will you come back?’ ‘I dunno.’ ‘I’ll come back if you come back.’ Fox should be terrified because the deal we made was like if one of us doesn’t come back, none of us are. … I would love to come back. I love the fans, and I love the character.”
16. DC – Christopher Reeve (Superman)
Granting Christopher Reeve credit as one of the best casting choices from either universe seems like the right thing to do, right? Of course! No matter who your favorite hero is Christopher Reeve embodies Superman in a way that’s been hard to replicate since then. Comic book legends up until the late 70s had made their mark in print, and on television, but hadn’t done so in the movies. Not until 1978 when Warner Bros. released their first big budget attempt at wooing the public. It was called Superman. Just before Christmas that year the Richard Donner film starring Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman and Margot Kidder was released becoming part of every conversation involving great superhero movies since.
15. Marvel – Patrick Stewart (Professor X)
Patrick Stewart uttered the words, “I’m done playing Professor X after Logan” and we all didn’t have a choice to but to pay attention. He’s always brought moxie to the character it’s hard to imagine anyone else play the role. Mr. Stewart was quoted saying,
“One Friday night in Berlin, the three of us sat, watching the movie. And I was so moved by it, much more moved than I had been the first time of seeing it. Maybe it was the company of these two guys, but the movie ended and — this is an admission — but at one point [Hugh] reached out, and he took my hand in those last few minutes, and I saw him go [mimes wiping a tear from his eye] like this, and then I realized I had just done the same thing,” he went on to say
“Then, the movie ended… and we were going to be taken up on stage, but not until the credits were over. So, we had some time to sit there and, as I sat there I realized there will never be a better, a more perfect, a more sensitive, emotional, and beautiful way of saying au revoir to Charles Xavier than this movie. So, I told [Hugh] that same evening, ‘I’m done too. It’s all over.'”
14. DC – Kevin Spacey (Lex Luthor)
In 2006 Superman Returns hit the big screen. With a slightly above average Rotten Tomatoes rating (76%) you either liked it, or you didn’t. Much like many of the movies in this article today I would imagine. Just because the movie wasn’t a smash doesn’t mean there wasn’t a notable performance, though. Brandon Routh played Clark Kent, but it was Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor that stood out to movie goers. No stranger to playing a bad guy, Kevin Spacey shines as quite possibly the best rendition of Lex Luthor since Gene Hackman in the original Superman. Spacey does add his unique take on things by pushing the boundaries of dark and maniacal to limits not previously seen from the character.
13. Marvel – Zoe Saldana (Gamora)
If you haven’t seen the MCU’s version of a group of criminals working together to fight reckless warriors in outer space, then you’re missing out! Most of us are huge fans of the first, two Guardians of the Galaxy movies. With a 92% approval rating and an average user rating of 4.4 out of 5 on Rotten Tomatoes that’s a fact that’s hard to dispute. Possibly, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, or Drax is your favorite of all the characters. Well, unless it’s not Gamora who’s currently played by fan favorite Zoe Saldana. Director James Gunn leaked a little information to USA Today that Zoe Saldana’s (Gamora) will have a significant role in Guardians of the Galaxy 3. Wise choice Marvel!
12. DC – Uma Thurman (Poison Ivy)
It’s hard to deny that Batman & Robin is the worst Batman movie, period. With a budget north of $125 million, the movie only cashed in $280 million at the box office. There was a bright spot, though, amongst what’s regarded as one of the worst movies of all-time. The performance was by Uma Thurman, and the character she played was named Poison Ivy. Not very often do we see a noteworthy performance come out of a flop film but in this instance, you could argue that point. Uma Thurman in many circles has been longingly labeled an excellent casting choice for her role in the 1997 film. She also received a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for favorite Sci-Fi actress in 1998 for the depiction.
11. Marvel – Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man)
Media sources estimate that Robert Downey Jr. will have earned just shy of half a billion dollars by the time his ninth movie as Iron Man is in theaters in 2019. That’s a ton of cash, though, nobody knows how accurate those numbers really are? Setting aside how much money he’s earned playing the iconic character for a second, MCU casting Downey may be the most successful, bullseye, direct hit the MCU has ever had. Downey goes on record,
“At this point, it’s about helping each other, too. I look at it as a competition, and I go, ‘Wow, maybe if these two franchises teamed up and I can take even a lesser position, with people I like and directors I respect, maybe we can keep things bumping along.”
10. DC – Heath Ledger (Joker)
Is there any doubt that the shoes Jared Leto had to fill playing the Joker character in Suicide Squad post-Heath Ledger were gigantic? Most likely you’d agree, the next actor to play the iconic role would leave themselves open to scrutiny both warranted and otherwise. Heath Ledger’s depiction of the Joker in The Dark Knight is unquestionably famous for many reasons. Ledger’s work in the film awarded him a Golden Globe, an Academy Award, as well as a Screen Actors Guild award; just to name a few. Jack Nicholson may have given us our first Joker to remember, but it was Heath and his portrayal that still leaves fans in awe all these years later. Without a doubt one of the best casting calls of all-time!
9. Marvel – Hugh Jackman (Wolverine)
It’s doubtful that Marvel knew what was in store for the future of X-Men when they chose Hugh Jackman to play their character Wolverine. I’ll admit he’s in my top three when discussing our favorite casting calls from the Marvel Universe. Some day a different actor will be playing the role of Wolverine and to say that will be a sad day for all of Hugh Jackman’s fans is an understatement. In 2017, Hugh’s been nominated for two MTV movie awards. One of which he took home with Dafne Keen for best duo in the film Logan. The famous actor has seen his share of success in the seventeen years he’s been playing Wolverine! It’s definitely too bad he has announced his retirement from the character.
8. DC – Danny DeVito (Penguin)
Danny DeVito goes down as a great casting call for DC and Warner Bros. when he was cast as the Penguin in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. The famous actor is even rumored to have performed his own stunts on screen. Tim Burton recalls DeVito’s performance saying,
“No one would talk to Danny on the set because he scared everybody,” Burton said. “I don’t know if that was his usual way of working, but there was a point where he just clicked on it and was completely this character who was totally antisocial, who had been out of the loop a little too long. Danny was 100 percent into the transformation. With the makeup and all, it was a complete creation.”
7. Marvel – Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow)
Kevin Feige, Marvel President, believes that Scarlett Johansson has embodied the character of the Black Widow as much as her fans do. She’s been a fantastic casting call having appeared in five Marvel films. Mr. Feige declared in 2016,
“We’ve announced the next nine movies, ten counting Civil War, through the end of 2019. Where we go beyond that are ongoing discussions that we’ll focus on in the next few years because we have a lot to do before then.
Of the characters that you’ve just mentioned I would say certainly the one creatively and emotionally that we are most committing to doing is Black Widow.”
6. DC – Michelle Pfeiffer (Catwoman)
The sequel to Batman, called Batman Returns, made its debut in the summer of 1992. Tim Burton directed the movie, and it shows throughout its entirety as the film creatively adds new comic book villains to the mix. In case you’re curious both films are showcased on Hulu at the moment…Fyi. Michelle Pfeiffer landed the part as Catwoman and is often regarded to this day as the best to ever play the role. Really? That’s above Anne Hathaway‘s attempt at playing the character in The Dark Knight Rises, right? We could argue all day long as to which actress played the role better but at the end of the day, Michelle Pfeiffer takes the ribbon as not only the sexiest but best actress to play the knockout role.
5. Marvel – Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane Watson)
Beginning in 2002 Kirsten Dunst took on the role of Mary Jane Watson, often referred to as MJ in Sam Raimi, Spider-Man directed films. She performed admirably as Peter Parker‘s love interest. Jack Matthews of the New York Daily News was spot on when he said,
“The real stars, as they are in the comic books, are the characters, and Raimi has cast them perfectly…Dunst, who participates in one of the most gratuitous wet t-shirt scenes since Wild Party Girls Spring Break Uncensored, adds enough sex appeal to turn any spider into an animal.” Mr. Matthews was right then, and he’s still correct now; Kirsten Dunst did add a sliver of understated sexiness to her role as Mary Jane Watson.
4. DC – Michael Keaton (Batman)
Michael Keaton may be the sentimental favorite here, and in all honesty, I was outvoted for this spot on this list today. Christian Bale by all rights is my favorite Batman ever, but I went with the consensus. After all, I don’t write these articles for myself to read. When referring to Keaton’s performance at that time in 1989, Hal Hinson of the Washington Post put it best,
“For Batman purists, Michael Keaton was an upsetting choice, but it’s a choice brilliantly redeemed in realization. What Keaton brings to his characterization of both Batman and his millionaire-playboy alter ego, Bruce Wayne, is a quality of coiled concentration, a wary vigilance … This is a true star performance, subtle, authoritative and sexually vibrant.”
3. Marvel – Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts)
Gwyneth Paltrow appears to have made an imprint on the Iron Man franchise just like Robert Downey Jr. although not as large. If they made a t-shirt that said “I’m in love with Pepper Potts,” I’d buy it without a second thought! Marvel has made some fantastic movies in the past decade or two but to imply that the franchise is second to the party isn’t true. In truth, Marvel has made in excess of 60% of superhero related movies since 1978. As you work your way towards the end of this article, you might find that you prefer Marvel films more than DC films. Marvel certainly has hit the nail on the head more than once when casting its movies.
2. DC – Natalie Portman (V For Vendetta)
When producers finally decided to cast Natalie Portman as Evey in the 2005 thriller V for Vendetta they made a wise decision. V for Vendetta, a British graphic novel, was written by Alan Moore and would later go on to be published by DC comics. Years later the DC- Vertigo comic book and its characters were modernized for their turn in an action/thriller for the big screen. V for Vendetta was one of four films that Portman was cast in 2005, but it’s unlikely you will remember the other three. Don’t worry, neither did I. V for Vendetta may be commonly overlooked as a comic book related movie but Natalie Portman’s performance as Evey most certainly isn’t.
1. Marvel – Lou Ferrigno (Hulk)
Little did Lou Ferrigno know in 1973 after he won the Mr. America and Mr. Universe crowns that he would be cast as the Incredible Hulk in coming years. Lou Ferrigno’s story is an interesting read, and that’s before he became one of the most legendary comic book characters to ever grace the screen. Regardless of what Lou was pursuing, like playing Canadian football with no experience, competing for the title of world’s strongest man, or training the legendary King of Pop Michael Jackson, he kept busy! Mr. Ferrigno is beyond a shadow of a doubt one of the best casting calls Stan Lee and company ever made, so naturally this big guy makes the list!
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